Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Friday, August 06, 2004

Behind a BLT, There Is More Than Meets the Eye

Since I am often on the look out for interesting employment law related items, I followed up on a story from Orlando about Lina Morales who was allegedly fired for eating pork on the premises of Rising Star, a telecommunications company described as having "strong Muslim ties." The story was apparently first reported by an Orlando TV station and now has been picked up by a number of news outlets. It is not clear what prompted the story (slow news day? -- suggestion from plaintiff's counsel?) since Morales was fired in March of 2003, the lawsuit was filed earlier this year and is in the "discovery phase" according to another report.

Although amusing, I probably would never have posted it here were it not for another phenomenon that I found in checking out some of the other links. The story has apparently caught the attention of many in the blogosphere, if you are to believe the large number of comments (451 as of this posting) to the little green footballs blog, a blog popular enough to have its own entry in wikipedia.

You can check out the post and the comments at Freedom for Me, Not for Thee. Given the nature of lawsuits, it would be a surprise to me if there were not a lot more to this case than what is reported so far (or will ever be, for that matter). But what is clear, and I guess I had not appreciated before, is how visceral the reaction against the "Muslim" position appears to be. For those involved in managing the ever more complicated issue of religion in the workplace, it is worth noting.

I'm curious about this myself... I personally hope people would have been as up in arms if it had been an organization with "strong Jewish ties."

I am initially amazed that a company can try to dictate what you can eat. I understand it's in Canada and not the U.S., but even so it seems as unlikely from there as it does here.

But then, after thinking for a while, there are some reasonable, non-religious reasons for this. Not many come to mind, but the one that springs immediately to the fore is peanuts.

The peanut allergy is so severe in some that it seems reasonable to forbid peanut consumption in an office that has someone with a strong enough allergy.

So, maybe this isn't to extreme... in the U.S. But, on the other hand, it IS a religious issue which always has some prickly thorns.

What do you think? Is this issue truly an attack against Moslems, or is the religious (and political) piece a side-issue to the question of your employer telling you what food you are allowed at work?
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